Don't you give up or fade away.

The other day I dug up our old camcorder from a mountain of dust behind the television. I cleaned it off, including the lens, which no one had bothered to cover when they stored it for ten years, even though the lens cover is built into the camera; charged the batteries; dusted off the tapes. And guess what! The thing still works! I'm not sure yet what I want to do with it. It's a bit bulky to be carrying around everywhere, especially when I've got a digital camera that takes digital videos that'll transfer easily to my computer. This thing, which we bought in probably 1999, is analog and takes the biggest tapes I've ever seen short of actual videocassettes - so not exactly computer friendly. I'm hoping to find a converter at the B&H superstore when Boyfriend and I go to New York THIS WEEKEND.

Holy smokes, I can't believe this weekend is almost here! The awesomeness is almost too much to bear. Friday night: Mae concert. Saturday night: dinner with Boyfriend's godmother. In between... art museum... B&H... a lot of walking, to be sure, because we don't want to take cabs if we can avoid it.... It's no cross country road trip, but in the end it's probably better for both my schedule and my wallet, AND we get to go to Mae's trippiest show ever. What's not to love?

In other news, I've been writing a ton. I was pretty stuck at the one point in the story and couldn't figure out what should happen next. Then I realized the characters needed more direction and sent a monster to chase them. That takes care of that, eh? How about an excerpt, then?

- Sam and Jesse are staying with a couple, Bibo and Lillia, who live at the foothills of the Jakala mountains, where our heroes arrived in Myriad.
- Jesse just figured out that a century had passed in Myriad over the course of a single day at home, meaning Sam's dad couldn't possibly still be alive.
- Sam asks Bibo if Jamus would send grackals after them. Grackals are big, ugly black birds that have yellow eyes on all sides of their heads and one big, clawed foot, used for plucking out people's eyeballs and carrying them around so the grackals can see out of their feet. Jamus uses them as spies.

The house was chaotic with the clatter of dishes and scurrying feet. Even Jesse had gotten swept up in preparations for dinner. I felt badly that I had left all the work to the others and tried to help, but when Lillia caught me building up the fire for the pig Bibo was roasting, she scolded me and made me sit aside. This was worse because it left me with no distractions from my misery over Dad. And you could tell the others knew it, but didn’t know what to do about it; they were treating it like something the cat dragged in, which no one wanted to clean up, not even the cat, and which everyone hoped would take care of itself if left alone, but instead all it did was reek and rot. Their attitude was almost as unbearable as the actual fact that my father was….

“Sam, could you help me peel these potatoes?” Jesse asked – quietly, so Lillia wouldn’t hear. He didn’t have to ask twice.
“I’m sorry about your dad,” he said, still speaking softly, as our knives shicked across the potatoes.

“It's not your fault,” I muttered. “Please, don’t talk about it. Do you remember what Avelía said to do once we got to Myriad?”

Jesse’s peeling hand slowed down. “I don’t remember her saying anything besides how to get here. Though she didn’t really even say that.”

“Because she couldn’t, remember?” I prompted. “Remember she said Jamus made it so she couldn’t talk about certain things outside of Myriad? But that, when we got here, there would be Cadants who could guide us?”

Jesse’s face lit up. “That’s right!”

“So I was thinking Bibo and Lillia probably know where to find one. I mean, Cadants are like wizards, so they probably aren’t too hard to come by here. We can leave tomorrow before the grackals come, just like Bibo suggested.”


Dinner was soon ready and we all settled at the table. The sun was balanced on the flat western horizon and its red rays slanted through the windows to bathe us in weary light. I had very little appetite even in spite of the magic I’d done and was glad Jesse wasted no time cutting to the chase; maybe in the midst of conversation no one would notice how little I ate.

“Do either of you know where we can find a Cadant?” he asked.

Bibo and Lillia paused, Bibo with a loaded fork halfway to his mouth, Lillia with her hands twisted in the napkin on her lap. “Now what would you want a Cadant for?” Bibo asked suspiciously.

“The Irvish queen who sent us said a Cadant could tell us what to do next,” I explained.

Bibo’s eyes remained slitted. “We don’t associate with Cadants,” he said. “And if ye got half a mind you’ll do the same.”

“‘We?’” Jesse repeated.


“Why? What’s wrong with them?” I asked.

“They deal in wild magic. Stuff everyone else’s got enough sense to stay away from. Wild magic is powerful, but unpredictable and almost impossible to control. Mages, on th’other hand – there’s a groupa wizards who know what they’re doin’. There’s one protectin’ every town. There’re precious few Cadants left these days, and I say thank Faye for that.”

“Precious few – but they still exist?” Jesse persisted.

“Mmm.” Bibo nodded grimly.

“Then we’ve got to see one,” I said, and Jesse nodded firmly in agreement.

Bibo said “mmm” again and scratched his beard. “I’ll think about it after dinner,” he promised. “Don’ want none o’ those shenanigans spoilin’ our lovely suppah.”

An awkward silence settled over the table. I didn’t know whether to blame our demand to see the Cadant or the news about dad, still festering under the carpet where they’d swept it. Lillia, in her infinite hospitality, attempted to break the silence.

“Your sunburn seems to have healed up,” she commented. “The aloe must’ve been especially good this year.”

“Oh – well,” I said sheepishly, not wanting to offend her by saying the aloe hadn’t done much more than soothe me to sleep last night. “It did feel wonderful. But I actually sped up the process with a bit of magic this afternoon.”

She and Bibo froze again, their positions reversed this time. “Did you say magic?” Lillia whispered. A glob of potatoes and corn dropped from her fork to her plate.

Perhaps magic wasn’t as common in Myriad as we had presumed. At any rate it seemed to be a very touchy issue with a lot of tricky nuances. “Yes….”

“Oh, for the love of Faye!” Bibo burst out, standing violently. “Doncha know ye cain’t just use magic whenever the fancy strikes around here?”

I shrank in my seat, what little appetite I’d had now totally destroyed. “No, I’m afraid I don’t know,” I squeaked. “Sorry.”

Bibo sighed and glanced meaningfully at Lillia, who started bustling again, swiftly clearing away dishes whose contents we had yet to taste. “I’m sure it was differnt in the stories yer dad told ye,” Bibo said gently, “but these days the people of Nomaçao live like Versitani. Most of ‘em don’ even remember magic exists, let alone how to do it. The ones that do remember know better’n to draw attention to themselves by usin’ it except in the most dire circumstances. People go about their business in nonmagical ways. They leave it to the city Mage to handle those things.”

“I’m sorry,” I said again.

“Frankly, I’m surprised it worked,” Bibo admitted. “A lot of magic don’t innymore, least not in this kingdom. But the fact is, Jamus keeps tabs on all the magic used in Nomaçao. You can be sure he knows exactly where you are now, and I’ll bet he’s sent a little friend to greet you.”

“A grackal?” I asked timidly.

Bibo dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand. “Naw, grackals’re dirty spies. I expect he’s got something a little more grand in mind now he’s found ye. ’Fonly we had a way to figger out what.”

“Maybe this is a bad time to bring it up,” said Jesse, “but I’ll bet the Cadant could help us.”

Bibo made a low growling noise at the back of his throat. “Never trust a Cadant! We’ll go west-southwest to Siobhan. I’ve met the Mage there once. Good chap. He’ll defend us. But we got to leave right away, or we might find out what Jamus sent before we get to the city.”

“What, now?” I said, alarmed. The last remnants of sunlight were fading fast on the horizon. There was no way around it: we would have to travel by night, through a strange land full of strange creatures, some of whom may have been sent to eat us. I set my jaw. “Right. I can take some supplies in my backpack if it’ll help. I’ve got a few things in there already….”

Bibo, Jesse and I packed while Lillia hard boiled a dozen eggs and packed up the rest of our feast. No one in Versitas can truly appreciate the meaning of “take-out” unless they’ve had to take their five course meal, shove it in a rucksack, and take off across the dusky plains while their food stayed magically warm in its bag, courtesy of Bibo.

“What happened to no magic?” I asked.

“They already know yer here. It cain’t git much worse,” he pointed out. “But yer not to do inny more magic yourself. Jamus’ll taste that it’s you and track ye down wherever y'are.”

I promised I wouldn’t.

In addition to the food, Lillia overloaded us with about a million aloe leaves and warm blankets for nights, packed into potato sacks, the laundry bag, and a cloth sack that had once been home to her yarn. Jesse and I were almost too top-heavy to stand.

When Bibo saw us, he promptly started unpacking goods while Lillia objected that we couldn’t leave the quilts and pots; how would we sleep or eat without them?

“We won’t be doing much of either if that thing catches up to us,” Bibo said grimly. “Speed is the most important factor right now. Samantha, you got anything else to wear on yer feet besides those….” He gestured at my flip flops, and I shook my head.

Lillia fetched a pair of loafers that turned out to be just the right size for me, and she urged me to take them. I felt guilty accepting an aging countrywoman’s only pair of shoes, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’ll be my little contribution to saving the human race,” she told me, smiling and patting my arm. “Now go! May your feet be light as Acharia.”

“You’re not coming?” I asked.

“No, no. I’m in no condition to be running. I’d only slow you down.”

“Besides,” Bibo added. “Someone’s got to stay behind an’ keep up the illusion yer still around.” He pointed to the sofa with his thumb. I was shocked to see Jesse sleeping there. Snoozing in the blankets on the floor beside him was… me. I shuddered and looked away.

Lillia herded us out the door. “Thank you for everything, ma’am,” the real Jesse said, reaching to hug her goodbye.

She returned the embrace too quickly. “Yes, yes; go!”

“We’re sorry for all the trouble we’ve caused,” I tried to say.

“Don’t be! Just go!”

With one last look at the cheery little cottage and the cheery little woman waving in the warm glow of the doorway, Jesse, Bibo and I slipped away into the night.

As always, please comment! You know the drill:
1. Does it make sense? Do events follow logically? Are new concepts clearly explained?
2. Does it hold your interest? Where and why do you get bored?
3. Do you want to read more?
4. And, since no one answered #4 last time: How do you feel about the characters thus far? You can base your opinion off any and all of the excerpts I've posted, not just this one. I'm just curious how they come across to people who didn't create them.


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